As told by King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King” (1969)
Ah yes, old boy. I recall my first sale like it was yesterday. I sat next to some real peaches on that shelf. The cream of the crop, I say. Honorable company. These bands and artists produced the sounds of tomorrow in the days of yore. You see, back then people appreciated real music. Music with class, music with substance…music with advanced forms of schizophrenia.
Anyway, I digress. So there I sat, somewhere on a shelf in New York’s East Village in 1969. It was my first time across the pond. I’d just been pressed and put on a dinghy headed for you Yanks in New York City. Dreadful place back then. So claustrophobic and stifling, choking on its own smog cloud created by boat-like cars churning out plumes of leaded exhaust.
The record store, on the other hand, was quite alright. It had a quaint, hipster kind of ambiance (keeping in mind that the hipster of 2016 strives to resemble the hipster of 1969) and it masked the smog with its own mature mustiness. It wasn’t a big place. Pretty much just four walls, covered in album art and concert posters, some mustard yellow shag carpet, and five or six aisles of records ranging from jazz and big-band, to the pioneers of psychedelia. As I said before, these blokes that owned the shop really knew their tunes.
I remember on my first day in the store, the main storekeep—I think the chap’s name was Richard, or Rick, or Dick, or something or other (it escapes me at the moment)—placed me in the experimental section…fittingly so, I suppose. For in those days, I was what you might consider a wee-bit “avant-garde.” Anyway, this Dick fellow unloaded a few more boxes of wax with Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed” playing from store’s Hi-Fi. It was then that I knew I was in a good place.
I was only in the shop for a couple days before a young, wiry chap with long hair, coke-bottle glasses, and a disheveled tweed suit picked me up from the shelf and took me home. He strolled down the walk with only me in his bag and kept to himself the whole way home. He lived on the Upper East side in a very well-to-do loft on the 5th floor. On that first night, I finally got the chance to take a spin on his turntable.
He poured himself three fingers of Scotch, neat. He then walked over and dropped the needle gently. “21st Century Schizoid Man” started to shout from my grooves as he made his way to a long leather sofa, plopped down, rested his head on one armrest, kicked his feet up to the other, and cupped his glass gently on his chest. His eyes were wide with bewilderment, staring at the ceiling during my first song, but slowly closed and relaxed during “I Talk to the Wind.” They stayed that way, but a subtle smile crept up on his face and stayed there through almost the entire remainder of the album. He was happy. I was happy. It seemed as though I’d made a connection with a real music connoisseur. A mutual appreciation for one and other developed and remained between us for close to a decade.
But that ended in 1978…when he discovered disco and cocaine. How pedestrian…
For the next thirty-some-odd years, I was sold and traded and resold by record buyers and shop owners. It appeared that people had forgotten about progressive music. Either that or they’d write me off as pretentious. They’d been far too occupied with their hippity-hop and grunge rock. So archaic. Occasionally, somebody would pick me up and play me in a store for a few minutes of enjoyment. But it wasn’t until 2006 that I found a good home again.
In 2006, a young lass and her father visited a record store in California. Yes, I made it all the way to the “best coast.” Ten months of the year it was sunshine, palm-trees, and beach-weather. Boy, did I hate it. Twas nothing like the cloudy, damp, frigid beaches of my origin.
Anyway, as I said, I’d found a good home there. This young lady and her dad picked me up and purchased me along with other masterworks from Yes and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer—good English pals of mine. I’d overheard them talking to the store owner about me. Apparently there was a new movie called Children of Men in which the track of my namesake is featured on the soundtrack. During their viewing of the film, the girl’s father reminisced about his exposure to my music back in his youth; thusly, piquing an interest in the girl. She was around eighteen then, but had musical tastes well-beyond her years—and lucky for me she’d recently started collecting vinyl records. Dani was her name.
And so it was with them that I went to live in a nice suburban neighborhood, not far from Los Angeles. Dani and her father broke me out and gave me a spin once in a while for quite some time. They loved me. Her mother…not so much. But now it’s 2016 and I hear talks that the girl is getting married. She’s taken interest in a beau who’s also an enthusiast of the sounds my time. I hear he can’t wait to get his hands on her record collection.
But still, I consider myself lucky. In 2010 I heard talks that Kanye West—of all people—sampled my opening track. I shudder at the fact that given a few more years, I could have easily ended up in some young, edgy, Los Angeles hipster’s loft, thrown in a crate on the floor next to his Yeezy Boosts and other records purchased from Urban Outfitters.
Rather than suffer through that nightmare, I’m being put back in a box again with other prog albums. But I fret not. I’ve heard that I’m being shipped to New York again, where Dani, her fiancé, and I will live for the foreseeable future.
I guess you could say my life has come full-circle…pun not intended.